End of Year Reflections: Why 2016 Was Not the Worst Year in History

Its’ the last day of the year 2016 and you know what that means: Time for the Year in Review!

NYE 2015/2016
NYE 2015/2016

This year has been certainly one of a kind (well, aren’t they all, the years?!). It seems that the continuous line of change, which has been a very strong part of my life since 2014 perhaps, is slowly but surely progressing. Change – in every way possible – I feel that is the code word of 2016, if any. Read More »

It’s Been A While..

Lately, many things have happened. But then again, many things have not. How do you start a blog you have neglected for almost a month? I know my post #300 is coming up soon. And while I had thought it would be a cool idea to have told most of my stories by then, it simply didn’t happen. The usual dilemma between working long hours and not being able to have much of a personal life has caught up with me in the past 3 weeks. It will be over, soon, though, so perhaps in the coming days or weeks I will have more time to devote to this blog. Hopefully. And also some fresh topics.

Until then I remain one of those faceless zombies who wait for the subway every morning and evening. In a faceless crowd, trying to squeeze into an overfilled train. Rush hour, how I’ve almost forgotten how it felt. And looked. And smelt.


Or how draining it can be to work for not much of a purpose.

Until then: How do you do it? Blogging and having a life? I have asked you this before but I am still curious how you juggle working, buying groceries, meeting with friends, having a hobby, and then posting online? Well, let me know! Suggestions are always welcome.

Working Nights in New York – the City That Does Like to Sleep on Occasion

***The following was written in the long sweltering heat of a July summer day, just over 3 months ago. However, I still consider its aspects very true and wanted to share this with you before it gets forgotten in the endless queue of drafts unknown to anyone’s eyes but mine*****

The past two weeks have been a bit gruesome. My work has put me on a different shift, as opportunities to train newcomers have arisen, and an entirely different New York has shown its face. It’s the New York of the night. It’s New York of the doomed! I am exaggerating a bit but this city does have a different appeal to it during night hours. And time really does seem to stand still during the day, especially if you are waiting on a train that never comes.
My late shift starts around 1PM and goes until 10PM. While most people are off around 5 to 6:30 PM here, this is the typical time I now take my lunch.

In the beginning I wasn’t too bothered by the sudden switch of times. “You will become a night owl,” my roommate predicted. “You will be too wound up to fall asleep when you come from work and stay up late”, he went on, enjoying his gloomy perspective on things.

His predictions did not prove true in the first week, as I was simply too tired to go to bed any later than 12 AM on a given weeknight. However, getting up in the mornings became a real issue. After two days I gave up setting my alarm at 7 AM and adjusted it to 7:30 AM. That’s half an hour more sleep than normal but also half an hour less of getting things done. After turning and twisting beneath my covers and trying to squeeze in some additional minutes of “resting”, I often found myself awake at 8 AM or later. Bummer!

A morning trip to the bakery in Greenpoint

Since it took me around 30 minutes to take the train to work, I had exactly four and a half hours of productivity ahead of me. Not counting having to take a shower and eating breakfast, of course. So trying to fetch groceries, squeezing in some chores and doing all the necessary housework in this limited time frame didn’t leave me with much time on my hands after all. Even though I had theoretically prepared my trip to Greenpoint to get some great Polish bread, I was now facing obstacles in forms of the subway running off schedule and not bringing me from A to B and back to A on time. And then of course just swinging by my favorite clothing store – when do I ever have the time for this during the week now?

I hadn’t taken the train in the middle of the day in a long time. I had therefore lost the feeling for its normal schedule. In the morning, as one train runs after another, it takes me not even 20 minutes to hop in and get to my end destination. But during the day, I had it already happen two times when the train decided to jam up at some point before and after the Manhattan bridge, thus extending the average commute for another 20 minutes. So believe it or not, but after giving myself a generous time window of 40 minutes, I would still show up slightly late to work when the D or N decided to act up for now reason. And of course the night train has the same issue. Not with getting stuck, luckily not. But with arriving at the station on time. The Q is notorious for sometimes switching over to the R, which means it can take an extra 20 minutes to get home because your subway just decided to run local and stop at every single station on its way beneath the Bridge (instead of crossing it).

I once walked into a subway car in broad underground light and was captured by a horde of “Young Aspiring Columbia Scientists” screaming their lungs out. 20 little brats children (not much older than 7 or 8) were having fun entertaining themselves while their teenaged supervisors were busy looking as bored and unresponsive as possible. Seems like aside from the saucy school children, you can stumble across the occasional field trip or two when it comes to riding the train at noon. Especially since school is out, right now, giving the kids not much to do but grouping together and thinking about a whole bunch of nonsense.

Brats in the train

Entering the ESB, the guards only knew me because of my former daily routine. “Have a good night” they yelled after me once I exited the revolving doors at 5PM. And were quite impressed seeing me enter it again just an hour later. Some people really do work late here, don’t get me wrong. I’ve seen people wandering around on our floor at the late hour of 8 PM on a FRIDAY! But 10 PM is over the top late, even in terms of a New York office job. So the ESB employees must have already noticed our little group of fours and fives exiting the building at exactly 10:05 PM. I wonder if there have been any rumors involved? Maybe it’s better not to know.

And then 5th Avenue, of course, which is never swept clean entirely. There are always the tourists who want to see the ESB at night. And McDonalds can be surprisingly packed with teenagers and families at 9 PM, believe it or not. But the streets running parallel to us, including the fascinating Koreatown, luckily do empty out after eightish. And the people riding the subway with me don’t look like the average crowd of workers but more like exhausted tourist and party hordes. Friday night is always crazy: Girls dressed up like prostitutes, men in their finest party gear. I almost forgot that a different party scene existed aside from the Meatpacking District and Village. I forgot about the newcomers to this city, who dress as they please and enjoy all the attention they can get from random tourists walking past them. Despite all of this, my efforts to find a decent bar or club close to the ESB have miserably failed. It’s just too darn bad, sometimes I would have loved to go for a right-fully earned unhappy hour drink after work sometimes.

My friend thinks it’s a terrible time of the year to be working late. “During summer you want to hang out with your friends and enjoy the outsides as much as you can” she rightfully complained when I had to tell her I wouldn’t make it to an event that evening. I agree. I already had it happen twice that I couldn’t watch an open-air movie in Dumbo. Or go for drinks with friends on other schedules. A meager social life and a bad habit for eating late – all no changes for the better.

What I take with me from working late is the following:

1) New York is not the never-sleeping city people want it to be.

2) A surprising amount of people still work the traditional 9-5 job, or certainly don’t work my midday – night hours

3) New York’s Midtown does calm down in certain parts after a certain time of day

4) You cannot get much done on a tight schedule as this, because it is eating your entire day away

Luckily, this was my last week on this shift so far. And why I wave my Martini glass at you and pour over these little wisdoms of the day I feel bad for the coworkers that still have to endure these working hours for a much longer time than I had to. Cheers to New York, the city that does snooze off to sleep at some point at night!

A huge bonus: The night views I’ve been getting lately! Gorgeous, huh?

The ESB Shooting: How to Create Hysteria on a Normal Workday

Going back to work on Monday was a bit awkward after the Friday happenings. Last week a supposedly disgruntled employee had shot his coworker dead and then was part of a gun fire that occurred right in front of the Empire State Building. All of this happened at 9:04 AM on a so far eventless morning.

“The start of just another Friday in the City”, is what most people must have thought while on their way to work.
“An exciting day for having a great view of the Big Apple” must have been the conceptions of the average tourist traveling out to our renowned platform.

I still remember it quite well. At 8:56 AM my coworker came inside the building. She was almost half an hour late to work and breathless. “I woke up at 8:40! No idea how I got ready but I took a cab over here from Hell’s Kitchen!” she exclaimed while rushing into the office.

Then, around 9 AM, another girl and I heard noise coming from outside. We are located on the 27th Floor but when the window is open you can still hear quite a bit from the traffic and sirens echoing through the streets. An image of gun shots flashed through my mind but I was quick to dismiss it. “Must be another movie they are filming in front of the building” I thought. My coworker dismissed it as construction sounds but we still managed to glance at each other for more than a few seconds, a worried expression on both of our faces.

Just ten minutes later the building intercom went off and a voice announced a “situation” on the 27th floor to which no one should react to until further notice. This happened to be the floor we were on. I poked my head out of the office door to see what was happening. Just in time to catch a building employee hurrying past me. He glanced back and managed to encourage me that everything was okay and I should not go downstairs. I wondered what that meant.

At the same time all of this was going on, another coworker was fixing up an ID at the downstairs security. He called up to our manager, telling him that it was believed 6-7 people were shot in the lobby. At 9:20 AM he was back upstairs, shaky but still able to tell his story: All doors had been locked at the first noise of the gun shots. It happened outside but had been heard in the lobby, which had led to his initial misperception. Everyone believed a madman had gone wild and had randomly fired his gun at passerbys.

We were all shocked at once but then remembered the noise going on just after 9 AM. Both me and the girl looked at each other and knew what we had heard. We started realizing that this incidence had unfolded in a matter of minutes and that the girl who had come in shortly before 9 AM had possibly been very lucky.

The velocity in which the news travelled during this morning still blows me away. FOX had a reporter close-by and she posted an initial story about three people being wounded in the gunfire, right outside the Empire State Building. Everything seemed to have occurred at 34th St and 5th Avenue, which is a common entrance for tourists and also ticket vendors. It was horrifying to think about the fact that my coworker seemed to have just evaded the entire scene: She had been buying breakfast at exactly this area only ten minutes earlier.

More news came trickling in. A friend texted me around 9:30 AM, saying her mother had given her a call and informed her of the shooting. The stories circulating the Web ranged from anywhere of 1 to 5 injured people but that was yet to change in the future. I am still amazed at the speed of how everything was delivered, the high amount of eye witness reports that were immediately released and of course tweeted pictures of the victims that should have never been circulating the Internet.

More and more friends grew worried and communicated via text. Even our customer service department started getting calls from clients who wanted to know if we were alright. The building sent off e-mails permitting people to exit the building but not to re-enter. We were all in a rather confused and shocked state of mind and tried to get over it by talking it all out. Many co-workers were on the phone with family and friends. It must have been a chaos downstairs.

Eventually, the news of what exactly happened came through to us. Mayor Bloomberg gave a press conference outside and outlined the events.

At around 12:30 PM it was permitted to enter the building again but only with an employee ID. Everything leading towards 5th Avenue was blocked off, so you had to go around the entire block to get somewhere. We stayed inside and ordered lunch to be delivered to us from a few joints downstairs, which offer food for workers and tourists.

Remaining press crowd

I started walking around outside at 1:30 PM, an extended lunch so-to-speak. Press and videographers were accumulated outside but most of them must have already moved on to a different event. Tourists were lead to the top again but only in the company of permitted ticket sellers. The overall flow started picking up. At 5:30 PM sharp I exited the building and 5th Avenue was back into business. No more crime scene tape, no more cops. It is amazing how fast things go back to “normal” here in New York.

The thoughts taken with from that one memorable Friday are easily summarized: First, even though this incident had nothing to do with terrorism, the Empire State Building remains most likely a top target. Second, the area is busy and overpopulated and police officers were at the scene in less than a reasonable time frame. Third, you never know what tomorrow brings.

(Most of this post has been written on August 24 to preserve the memory of the moment)

(If the story has not outlined it yet, I work in the Empire State Building on the 27th Floor and am giving you an inside view)

Being Employed VS. Being Unemployed in NY

I’ve been doing a lot of thinking lately. I’ve been catapulting myself into the beginning weeks and months of my time in the City and how it felt to live life then. I know, it’s not terribly long ago. But I feel like the memories are fading already, after a good one and a half years.

One thing I will always look back on and feel good about is not having a steady job when I first moved here. This might sound backwards to you. Most people do it the other way around: They get their visa which is connected to a job offer in the States and then move over here. At least this is what my German friend did. We moved here at about the same time, only one week of a difference, and we ended up still being here. Ironically, not at the same job, not in the same apartment, not even with the same friends, but we are still around.

What I remember is that he had always been intensely stressed out when first moving here. His former job site in NJ had surely kicked his a** and his boss made him work a good 12 hours through the entire day. So it seemed that during the week and even on some weekends, he had basically no time left to explore New York and see what this city is about. I, on the other hand, had been busy looking for an apartment for 2 days (what a joke compared to his 2 weeks of fruitless efforts), and had then taken it pretty easy, living off of the savings I had accumulated in Europe. The first month I was here, I felt like such a tourist, it was incredibly refreshing. After about six weeks though, money become sparse, how unpredicted indeed, and after a few unsuccessful applications I entered the American food industry and waitressed my way through the LES for two steady months. I am not encouraging anyone to become a waiter or bartender. I hated that job, there is simply no career made in a bar filled with scum bags and cheap bosses. But it did give me enough leisure time, as I only worked three days and nights and had the rest of the week to myself. Since this was during the summer, it was sweet to be able to go to one of New York’s fabulous beaches on a Tuesday or Wednesday (read more about beaches here). It was nice to be able to hang around in Bryant Park on a hot August afternoon. It was enjoyable to go out during the week without having to jump out of bed early the next morning.

And even though I had been looking for something steady, it is, in general, pretty hard to find a job here in the summer. You might wonder how this is relevant upon season, but NY has this thing of snatching underpaid interns who are eager to get into a business during the hot months. Not really a good time for desperate college graduates to get their foot in the door AND aim for a decent salary. And true enough, I made it into my first 9-5 in the beginning of October. After 6 months of dwelling, exploring, and seeing New York at every possible hour of the day it was time to enter the working world. And ever since then I have basically never taken enough time off to get the feeling back which I had during those first sweet months in the Big Apple. The pros of having a steady job here are that it is nice to have a routine, to be able to get to know other working people, to expand one’s friend’s circle, if possible. But on the flipside, it compromises a great deal of your time and might stall you in a way never foreseen.

I consider winter the best time to be employed, if there is ever a season to be named. It’s good to be inside, to evade the cold, and to be occupied instead of feeling depressed and lonely. Once spring comes around, though, this city shows a completely different face. It is like a circus around Times Square, quite colorful in the Village, drunken in the Lower East Side. The warm months are most likely the best to be unemployed. Of course no one can really live like this over here, unless they switch jobs twice a year.

I know that some Americans have come here to pursue a serious career. Bankers, investors, advertisers, … you name it! I sometimes pity them and their life style somehow and wonder if it is worth going through all the stress during a time most crucial in their life. They are nothing I would like to become but then again it is very interesting to witness them and see how they undergo the metamorphosis of a naive student to a serene business man (who will eventually end up on coke).

To me, New York is not really about a career. I know I will eventually have to say good-bye and go back to college to pursue a graduate degree. To me, New York has always been about the journey. About breaking out of a boring everyday situation, away from the rigidity and stubbornness of the European system and meeting a bunch of crazy people. It’s about living somewhere far away from home, coping with different cultures and personalities, and gaining some valuable experience on the trip overseas.

I am sure a year, even a few months of employment will look splendid on your resume and appear impressive to recruiters. But it is often forgotten that you can surely slave yourself to death here. It is after all the city of which if you make it here you can make it anywhere. For a very good reason: See New York as the training for everything else in your life, be it a job, be it even life, and then working or living in every other state, maybe even country, might seem like a piece of cake to you. The stress levels you reach here couldn’t be higher than anywhere else.

So if a job simply drains you, takes all your energy, and doesn’t even leave you with a tiny bit of satisfaction, then I am not sure it is worth pursuing for too much longer. It’s all about the memories created during your life time, and New York especially is one of those cities you want to focus all of your energy on. Where you want to take in every sight, witness every oddity, and not waste away at a frustrating job site.

New York: Embrace the Change

I miss writing! Don’t think I have forgotten you, I am just insanely busy at the moment! Not only is the new job eating up most of my daytime hours and leaving me with practically nothing at the end of the day. But I am also in the process of moving.
That’s right! It will most likely be no more Park Slope for me by December 1. Because of unexpected circumstances I am looking for a new apartment/room in Brooklyn. I am not even dealing with other boroughs. Forget Queens, the Bronx, or anything North of Harlem. My heart lies here, which means I have to take my time, sort out some appointments and look at potential houses. I have to say, so far the Slope, Kensington, and even Bedstuy have been represented in my search.

Hey, don’t judge! The realtor after all did put “Crown Heights” in the ad. But a place off Nostrand Ave on the A-line is most definitely not Crown Heights anymore. I thought it still essential to at least check out this spot before I could judge and kick it out of my considerations. With some caution I stepped off the train and saw a good amount of homeless people already. I guess a homeless shelter was close to the station. Walking down 4 long blocks to the advertised location proofed to be very errr … interesting. Good it wasn’t too late at night, I think I would have been more scared otherwise. The area seems to be very West-Indian, but compared to Flatbush, another West-Indian neighborhood, the vibes are completely different. Oh boy, I definitely have to write a ghetto post on Brooklyn! The part of Bedstuy I was in is already starting to gentrify – I saw more and more white faces when walking towards my destination. And the houses are beautiful, almost like in the Slope, built sometime in the 19th century, which stoic stone-steps leading up to the high-ceiled buildings. “Pity that the wrong sort of unappreciative folks live there”, I thought.

When I walked close to the given address, I saw another guy who had already been waiting. The appointment was one was one of those “open-house-come-ins” people tend to have in New York, so I wasn’t too surprised. What was different about this seeing was that we had two different names for who we wanted to see and didn’t know which apartment number to buzz. After waiting some precious 5 minutes, a girl came downstairs and fetched us. Supposedly the rooms were not even renovated yet and the entire place was in the process of being built. Yup, as far as I could tell the floor had only recently been installed. So a completely new apartment with five bedrooms seeking to be filled on a first-come-first-serve basis. The kids who found the spot were confident that it would be done by November 15th… Which would have been in a week from when I had looked at the rooms. I never followed up with them but I am curious to know if they are able to move in by Tuesday, which I highly doubt. The girl who had discovered this “raw diamond” was nice and had already bonded with an Australian guy. There were four other people looking at the three spare bedrooms. As we got to know each other, I found out that only a guy from Long Island and I myself had lived in New York for longer than one month. So no wonder these folks were quite enthralled! If they were to know that the real ghetto starts just 4 blocks down, I doubt they would have even considered checking out the room … But I have to admit all persons were equally social and I sure hope they found their match in roommates. I decided it wouldn’t be for me this time, though. Of to the next one.

Aside from the aforementioned apartment I have checked out a few places in the Slope and sorta given up the idea of living in a decent spot over here. One potential candidate wanted me to pay 600 bucks just for her “new” furniture she had bought from Ikea (!) and which she wouldn’t be able to take with her on her move back to Austria. Then there was a situation during which I had to wait for 20 minutes just to get into a place. The girl who had been looking before me had locked herself into the apartment by accident and it took some three strong women to pry the door open (it was wooden and had been caught in the frame).

I am really not in the mood to look at another 20 places, just as was the case last year. I remember saying to myself I never wanted to go through this again! Boy, was I pleased when I had found the “right” place. And here I am, once again on a search for a room in New York! I will keep you updated on the progress. Until I figure out how to squeeze in more hours in a seemingly fast-paced 24-hour-day or until I find out how to sleep and write and work at the same time, well until then, keep on following. I will try to keep you updated more often.

Have a great Sunday!

Working in the Empire State Building

I feel rejuvenated. I feel strong and capable of doing so many things at once. Something completely unexpected has happened and turned my world upside down within only a short time frame.

The turmoil started about two weeks ago: I went to an interview for an Austrian-rooted company and last week I received an offer to start the job. This past Monday was basically the start of my first week of work and, as you might have noticed already, it’s been crazy busy! I haven’t had the chance to write one single post during the past five days so today I want to take my time and update you on the newest events going on in my simple life.

The job in particular might not be of great interest to you. I want to respect the company and keep it rather confidential. However, the location will hopefully blow you away.
I’ll give you a few hints: So, I still work in Midtown. To be specific, I even work close to 34th Street, just as was with the old job (remember the Penn Station stop I used to walk out of? Get the full story here). But I am a few blocks off towards the East. To be very specific, I work at 350 Fifth Avenue. Now google please…

If you still don’t get it… I work in a well-known symbol of New York, part of the slogan for the state of New York (Empire State of Mind), and perhaps the most popular landmark in the one and only skyline of Manhattan…

I work in the Empire State Building!

Oh, don’t worry, I would have eventually told you about the interview – even if it hadn’t worked out with this job. That by itself was pretty mind-blowing. Five doormen who cheerfully and solemnly greeted me with a striking “Good morning to the Empire State Building.” They held the door open and swiped my guest pass to guide me across to the seemingly endless amount of elevators… Yes, that first day of my interview was impressive by itself, no doubt!

And then Monday came around, and I found myself on my way from Herald Square one block over to Fifth Avenue, not knowing if this was a dream or my real life. I would have never imagined myself working on Fifth Avenue. But even less, I would have never imagined myself working in the Empire State Building.

To not bore you with the detailed facts: I started working with two other nice pals, we all get along quite well, and training has not ceased to strain our intellect and patience. This in a good way, I dare say. I haven’t had one day yet that I consider boring. Long gone the days filled with social networking, blog posts, and endless amounts of pointless E-Mails. Long gone the days when being annoyed with stupid office bureaucracy and hassling with superiors who barely made it through their high school degree. Long gone the days when feeling like an awkward, unshaped piece of a puzzle I no longer wanted to belong to…

Another training session before lunch...

I have to say – my day starts out pretty sweet. When I exit my F-train, I walk right into the side entrance to the Empire State Building. Past the Steve Madden and Aerosoles stores, away from the ESB ticket sellers, right through the revolving doors into the ground floor. In the beginning, we three newbies obtained a guest pass at the front desk, and this only when someone from our office gave his okay. On Thursday, our trainer led us into the basement and we got our permanent passes taken. The picture looks quite awful but after comparing them to each other we didn’t care anymore for everyone looks unauthentic and unappealing on these spits of plastic.

Most unrepresentable pass ever!

Today I took my fancy camera with me and shot some nice pictures of our view from the 27th floor (this information, indeed, I can tell you). The sun was mockingly shining through the glass and winking at us. I found out that employees get a 50 per cent discount if they want to go to the top. When I went in April it had cost me $22, but now it would be reduced to a temptingly low $11. I am positive that my coworker and I will check out the top one time soon, as we are almost the only ones hanging in front of our office windows and competing about who takes the better pictures (sorry, I don’t have an iPhone!).

Then I went on a small tour and found a “kosher” pizzeria on the ground level. This was actually the place my former coworkers (I used to work for a Jewish company) had ordered their lunch from and I had jokingly told them to visit me whenever they would be around. I didn’t try it, as I have eaten enough kosher food for the rest of my life, and I wasn’t really turned on by their pricing or customer service, either.

Before ending my tour, I asked one of those fancy-looking guards to look sweet pose firmly for me and got a nice shot of him, too. He carefully pointed out to me that he is only allowed to have one picture taken of him… Which I am unsure of what one picture means exactly. One picture per guard (I would have went right on to the next), or one picture a day, an hour … ? Next time I will ask him!

Kosher pizza
A guard trying hard to look good for his only picture

Well, after taking this symbolic one picture, I stepped into the elevator. Or rather: One of those ten leading up to the 27th floor and beyond. I am not sure how many lifts exactly exist, but they are divided into the floor level you want to reach, so the one shooting up to levels 24 through 40 is for me. The elevator is a typical build for the City, as it has a screen showing the current weather forecast (definitely will need this when on my WAY TO WORK) and current updates on what’s going on in the Empire State Building (girl scout cookies sold on the ground floors). These updates I do consider sweet and surreal at the same time. Sometimes I feel like pinching myself and asking: AM I REALLY HERE?! How could I not be living the American Dream? Not only am in New York and work for an interesting and mentally-challenging company. But I am in THE one and only epitome of this city …
I truly achieved what I never imagined to achieve and now I am floating on this log in the middle of the whirling river that makes out my time here in the Big Apple. Unsure of the destination but my time here filled with some special treats and unexpected twists.

So as you can tell, I am still adjusting to all of this and try not to shake when I enter the building or stand still in awe. Which I really feel like doing every single time. One thing I have promised myself already is to say a cheerful “Good Morning” back to those fancy-looking guards. They already make my day in the morning, might as well make theirs. Not like some ignorant people who just walk past and who have seemed to forgotten where again they really work at. And how suddenly it could be over. We are, after all, in New York, New York!

So here I stand, one of those thousands of people working in the Empire State Building. And I cannot wait to go back on Monday!

Back to my own office

I hope your guys’ week has been equally splendid!

A Word on Creativity

Creativity is triggered by an unbelievable amount of things. Once in this phase of seeing everything in nothing, there is truly no limit to what your head can come up with: A simple word, a thought crossing your mind, a picture you’ve seen in your early childhood years, a long-lost idea you worked out in your dreams.

But one thing I have come to find is that albeit creativity can be easily triggered, it can also be harshly suppressed to a degree at which the artist feels locked in a room or caged in a situation, wanting to escape but not knowing how.

My current job is a great example of the feeling described above. It’s mind-numbing work with not too much upwards-crawling and does not suit my current needs of expressionism. We all know what kind of job I am talking about: Whoever has been stuck in a dull position without any prospect of growth or inflexibility to learn other sides of the industry, whoever has strived to achieve great results and then has frustratingly dealt with the crushing outcomes, whoever has been committed to work not aimed towards a career but simply moneymaking or paying the bills – whoever has done all of this, knows what it feels like to be on the wrong path of life.

What I have come to find is that even though I have plenty of downtime in my current position, I barely get two thirds of the things done I would be able to achieve if I were to have a fully challenging work. Absurd enough the amount of free time I have, but even more paradox the fact that I’d rather spend it on mindlessly surfing the internet, facebooking, or checking out other social networks. Rather than actively using it to my own benefit and applying for other positions or writing up some high-quality blog posts.

This being ironic by itself I have discovered that whenever I have been fully challenged the entire day, I am able to write about topics in about half the time I am here and I achieve more things throughout a two-hour period (perhaps in the morning before I leave the house) than I do here in twice the time. I dwell well on pressure – have always been this way, one of those fellows who wrote up their college papers six hours before the deadline. However, when I know I will do exciting things throughout the day or something that has a high fun factor, I am more willing to focus on the works I want to achieve that particular day.

Has anyone else ever come up with the logic to this absurdness? I guess creative situations stimulate you to a higher degree then dull circumstances which you know are just wasting your time in New York.

Perhaps there is a good explanation to all of this. We all have times during which we feel we can come up with new ideas in a second and then we have times during which we cannot figure out a simple thought or draw a stroke on a blank piece of paper. An article I read recently gave some great tips on how to improve your writing and one of these was to read challenging works before hopping into the writing process (Go to James Altucher’s blog to read them in depth.) . Others’ creativity has the potential to inspire you. Such as other’s indifference and unoriginality can pull you down, if you’re not displaying the right strength to resist the negative influence…

A glimmer of hope is that at least I am still using my valuable but wasted time to produce something I can express myself with and keep for future references – yes, even interact with people all over the world. When I look at my fellow coworkers, who simply utilize this time for dull internet shopping or talking to their friends on the phone, I feel fortunate I am not trapped in their mind set – yet.

So, to all of those fellow artists, writers, bloggers, who have been experiencing difficulties in expressing themselves lately: No worries, I am sure it will fade soon enough and give way to something superior.

You just have to trust your qualities of being creative and your ability to create. Both of these which we need so badly in our world today!

A Taste of the Narcissism Apple, Anyone?

“If you were to be naked and let your personality dress you, you would not wear the most beautiful dress.”

“If your character were to show on your outside, you would not be the prettiest person among others. “

Narcissism is a big thing in New York. Self-focus and selfishness, they’re all here, crowded together in one area, trying to fight love for others. The more self-centered you are, the better. Survival-wise, you could have the best premises if you display this characteristic. As already implied in the NYC Charade (re-read here), the more feathers you ruffle and the bigger the show you play, the better for you. Don’t forget, you and only YOU are the main characters in this act.

It’s okay to find your life great. But please do not let it have an effect on others if it is not in a good way. I talked to people who got very mad as soon as the subject changed from THEIR house, THEIR children, THEIR dress, THEIR WHATEVER to something that wasn’t related to this. Even worse when I tried to talk about MY things because this gave them a reason to compare and to drag my stuff through mud – and this in such a begrudging manner. As if they couldn’t just get over the fact that other people have great things which make them feel happy, too.

Some people are so sad. I’ve worked with colleagues who had nothing else to contribute to human society than to marry a doctor. Their own life being miserable enough, they tried to make other people’s life miserable, too, by talking to them derogatively or not giving them a chance to progress career-wise. If they didn’t have power over this part, they made sure they could at least make this person look bad in front of a supervisor or other boss. I guess they saw others’ happiness as an insult to their dullness, and others’ success as a threat to their nicely laid-out plan of being successful themselves. There is a lot of competition in this city, no doubt. But it isn’t carried out in a fair way or in a way that makes me want to take part in this competition. Playing dirty for what? I don’t feel like I am on that kindergarten-level anymore but rather that competing for something can be carried out in a mature way without emotionally harming anyone along the way. Maybe it is just American mentality but I have more the feeling that it is especially a part of New York than anything else.

And why do I have the feeling that the “How are you-”mentality is carried out on further topics than this? We all know that ‘how are you’ does not really refer to how you feel or how crappy your day has been or if you’ve been doing well lately (it actually does mean all of this in German culture, a fine difference!) but is seen as a simple, polite, set phrase. Which is fine. But when people ask me how my vacation was or how I spent my weekend, I do want to tell them what I did, how much fun I’ve had, and what my experiences were. I know I cannot talk to this with anyone. Aside from the selection problem, the majority of some people here don’t care to know about the good things in my life. They take it as a careless hint to tell me all about THEIR experience in that city, how much fun THEY had, and what THEY did. Mhmmm, not quite balanced here, is it? It wouldn’t bother me as much if I weren’t to see their malicious gleam in their eyes that cries out BRAGGING loudly.
I’m getting tired of it. It seems harder and harder to stay away from these fake-os. I bought a new dress at Macy’s? They have a nicer one and mine is too cheap. I bought a ticket to Europe? Good for me, I will be missing out on half of my monthly pay because of this. New shoes? They were fashionable last season…

Is it cool to only see the negative all the time and to make others feel bad about themselves? It’s quite nerve-wracking and simply exhausting to deal with these nutcases. I was well-equipped in Europe, I had my cushion of real friends I could fall onto when this bothered me. But here it is a bit dis-arming, I have to admit. It sometimes turns your values upside down, but not in a good way.

Of course I am aware that, psychologically seen, these people are mostly grown up children who have not received enough attention in their lives. Whatever they were not able to receive from their parents they are now trying to get from strangers or so-called friends. Respect, acceptance, love, and other basics. These people are not able to build up real friendships, by the way. It’s all a matter of trust and they don’t trust in anyone – not even themselves. Their quest on filling in the sometimes huge hole of whatever they are missing will be never-ending until they accomplish self-insight. But try to criticize someone who is unstable and narcissistic. You will have him/her against you in no time because you have offended this person bitterly. They are not too much into self-improvement, these people.

Beware of narcissism. There is nothing wrong with a little bit of self-love and finding yourself a valuable person. But if you came here as someone who cared for others and if you had other thoughts on your mind than your own problems over and over again, try not to fall for New York’s biggest danger. It might be hard to crawl away from it.

Just Another Day in Midtown

This is Midtown Manhattan. This is where I work. Midtown is large, its core reaching from 31st to 59th Street, from 3rd to 9th Avenue. It is the epitome of business, commercial, retail and what most tourists think New York is about. The heart of the Big Apple employs more than 700,000 workers who make their way into this busy center of New York each day. I am one of them.

Every morning I hop of the blue line at Penn Station on 34th St and 8th Avenue, finding my way through the usual suspects hanging around as soon as I reach the top of the stairs. Most major bus and train stations not only are a means of travel for tourists and commuters but also show a high amount of homeless people, drug addicts, and seedy characters. Penn Station does not differ from this image – a situation I had to get used to in the beginning. It surely was a change to see a business man in a dry-cleaned suit walking past an unkempt and unbathed guy in a dirty sweater and filthy pants. Just another hint to the wide gap between poor and rich and how this city deals with all their different social statuses.
There is always this big group of homeless people around 35th Street, lingering around a food store and talking loudly about whatever is on their minds (not always in a coherent manner). My coworker used to joke about her not being dressed up enough if one of these men did not whistle after her when she got off the train on any given day.
Midtown is relatively sleepy in the morning, awakening from its shady night business, being a home to the early sightseers and people who have to get to work on time.

Among the suit guys, the extravagantly dressed girls, the tourists, and the crazy men I make my way up to 36th St and enter the building with 20 floors. Not the highest around, but not the shortest, either. Double security check is required around this area, making me show my electronic ID to the woman at the door and having an electronic key for the entrance on our floor, past another grimly looking security guard. I found out that this procedure is common here in New York, maybe it makes some people feel important when they have to go through all these obstacles before they can actually do what they are being paid for.

When I exit the building again for lunch, I find myself in a bustling Midtown, as alive as it can get, for now the late tourists, the retail stores, and almost everyone else, who has to go to work, has awaken. Now is the time the minimum-wage workers stand on the streets, dressed up as a mascot or wearing a sign around them, advertising for pubs, pizza places, or jewelry stores. Some do their job convincingly, some just stand there wordlessly and hand me their flyer. Lunch options are vast in this area and, surprisingly, you can get a good deal because of all the competition going on. There are at least seven different pizza stands, half of them offering the $1 pizza special. Some are good, some are not even worth mentioning. At the corner of 37th St the 2Bros subsidiary has opened up a $1-pizza bistro, which is always packed, and its line continues to attract an even longer queue of hungry people. As I found out over the period of 9 months, you tend to get tired of it very fast, so diversity is important.

There are two good falafel places two streets away, and the shops Amici and Food Emporium offer every other kind of edibles such as a full salad bar, sushi, or cooked goodies. They do have their price, though. Fast food joints have opened up all along 8th Avenue, making White Castle one of the worst and McDonalds one of the most popular.

The proximity to Hell’s Kitchen seduces many people to grab their lunch at a good-tasting Thai, Irish, Spanish, Chinese, or other restaurant on 9th Avenue. The prices are good during restaurant week in January and July, offering a prix-fix meal at a relatively low cost without having the quality suffer.



Fastfood on 8th Ave


Thai food Hell's Kitchen

Once in a while I use my lunch break for a shopping trip to Macy’s at Herald Square. Distance is not relevant, as it is only 7mins away. I try to only stay in that store and to not look around to see what GAP, H&M, Victoria’s Secret, and Daffy’s has to offer. I try.

The Post Office Building on 33rd St and 8th Avenue is a cultural eye catcher as it was built in 1912 and displays many Roman architectural elements. Sometimes I feel like sitting on its steps and taking in my food while viewing rushed people, relaxed people, freaky people…you name it! I have also found that I am not the only one doing this and that some guys consider it a great spot to whistle after a random girl who walks past them while high-fiving each other for their courageous move. People use it as a meet-up point (you definitely cannot miss this building), hurry inside to take care of their mail errands or simply just sit in groups and are absorbed in their meal.

Bustling, busy, overcrowded Times Square

This neighborhood is mellow, compared to the one and only tourist hot spot: Times Square! Occasionally I find myself going to 42nd St, about a five-minute walk from where I work. I pass Port Authority with its commuters and buses coming to and from New Jersey (the picture very much resembles the one at Penn Station). The Times Square insanity already starts on 40nd St and 8th Avenue and I only make it up to Broadway until I decide I had enough and walk back, this time escaping the foreign crowds by taking some back roads.

There is nothing that beats the view you have of New York in Midtown, though. Sky-tall buildings, one cab after another, rich people in pimped up cars with chauffeurs, models on their way to a call, either dressed up or looking natural… One day I saw an obese girl in a pretty blue dress walk down the sidewalks while posing in front of a video camera. I guess they were filming for a new show. Another day a grungied up Punkrock model catwalked across the street in front of Penn Station – and had to do it again as the photographer was not satisfied with her first three performances.

After work, while on my way to the subway, the Midtown rush and hurry has vanished, giving way to tired business guys who are either going home or coming from a different district. People are getting ready for an eventful night out, starting out with a drink at happy hour price, chatting with their coworkers at a local bar, or simply enjoying being off and in Manhattan. They go shopping, since retails stores are open until 8 or 10PM. They run all their errands they weren’t able to do during lunch. Or they simply hop on a train to get out of the business center and dive into calmer realms.

Working in Midtown – you gotta love it or hate it!